The writers of Breaking Bad

I just had the immense privilege of hearing the Breaking Bad writers room inhabitants (including showrunner, creator, writer, and director, Vince Gilligan) give a talk.

Here are a few things I wrote down for your interest:

The writers wrote well because Vince created a feeling of ownership about the scripts, so they felt it was ‘our show’ and invested themselves to a greater extent.

Vince lives by a quote from Frank Capra’s autobiography, something like ‘the greatest sin is boredom’. But he does wonder if you can take that maxim too far.

One of the writers was very keen to join after watching a scene in season one where Jesse is having sex with a meth head in a motel. At one point she says, ‘That’s my root beer’; he thought she said ‘Oops, my pooper’, and thought the show simply had no boundaries.

The aim with Breaking Bad was to accomplish something different on TV. In the old days TV characters never changed throughout a season, or even the lifetime of the show, but Vince wanted Walt to change.

They approached the writing by asking where Walt’s/Jesse’s/Skylar’s etc. head was at over and over again. Get them into a situation then look for the truth of how they would really react to those circumstances. This sometimes led to things happening several episodes later than they had planned.

Vince really didn’t want to kill Mike, but he told the actor he was going to die  when they met at Aaron Paul’s engagement party.

The original plan was to kill Jesse at the end of the first season.

The fly episode was written because they ran out of money, so they could only shoot in a studio. They could have used different locations/sets, but they decided to do it like a Pinter play, at the extreme of the parameters they had been given.

Fring was named after the German football player Torsten Frings (one of the writers is a big football fan).

Even if you’re a control freak, if you hire good people you’re an idiot not to take their input.

Other endings that were considered:

Jesse was going to kill Walt. During the planning of this Jesse kidnapped Hank and, while Walt was watching, killed him.

Jesse went to prison and Walt tried to bust him out with the M60 that he uses at the end of season 5.

Marie was gong to shoot Walt because of what he did to Hank.

Other gruesome scenes were considered, including one where Walt tied someone up in his basement and rigged him up to a shotgun so he could commit suicide whenever he wished. Then he came in every so often and chopped a few inches of one of his legs then cauterised the wound with a blow torch. Eventually, when the would was up to the thigh, Walt’s son walked in and got in the way of the machine gun. The man pulled the shotgun trigger and killed them both.

Another had Fring walking round a DIY shop with another man whom he asked for a number between 1 and 24. Then he casually bought a chisel. Soon after, Fring rammed the chisel into the guy’s back at the corresponding number of vertebrae, paralysing him.

That’s all, folks.